Wednesday, June 11, 2008

it's never too late to chime in

This is old news, but now I have a space to rant about it. We're talking early signing period, brought to the headlines by the SEC coaches and their vote to advocate one.

It is not, of course, a bad idea in and of itself. There are a number of players - Jake Snyder comes to mind as a good example this year - that have their dream offers in hand, they know it, and they don't want to be bothered all year by a bunch of coaches they're not going to play for.

We fans would also sure love not to see any decommitments. Ronald Curry is still fresh in the minds of so many 'Hoos fans. But let's not forget the purposes of recruiting: 1, for coaches to put together the most talented team they can, and 2, to match up these student-athletes with a program they feel comfortable in and a coach they actually want to spend their next four years doing suicides for. Not the fans. Fans wishes don't count here.

So, the SEC proposal. So so so much wrong with it. To wit:

- November signing date. Most of the top programs have 8-12 verbals from guys they wish could sign RIGHT NOW. Oops: still more than five months of craziness between now and then, though. And it happens to fall right during, uh, fall, when said athletes are still trying to balance their crucial senior year of football, crucial senior year of academics, and oh yeah, you got 30 messages, son, and Coach Schmuckatelli is on your doorstep. That doesn't help much. Sure, it helps the coaches, who are recruiting like sunz-a-bitches in December, January, and February. Not the recruit.

- No official visits. Either before or after the signing. Huh? A kid who took his official to your school, canceled all his others, wants to sign yesterday, is disqualified from doing so? Even can't actually go visit somewhere you're signing four years of your life to? Oh, there's unofficial visits, sure, but officials are where the recruiting gets done, since it's the school's dime.

- Early signing period of any kind locks in recruits that might suddenly be interested in a school following a coaching change; or alternately, might suddenly become extremely disinterested in their own school following a coaching change. Sure sure: don't sign if you think you might back out, if there's obvious signs that the coach is gonna get the sack, etc. etc etc. But you know it happens every year - "I was totally taken by surprise" when they fired the coach. Never saw it coming - and now the kid's locked in or has to take a year off. Not right.

What ought to happen is this, and mark it down because it's the official Old Virginia platform. 364 days a year, a recruit can sign a non-binding letter of intent with a team. This would then get faxed to the NCAA, which publishes a weekly list of recruits who have done so to all D-I head coaches. From then on it's hands off - the only allowable contact between a recruit and a head coach from any other school would be at the recruit's high school (where sometimes it can't be helped) and at the university, where the kid would still be free to take unofficials if he so chooses. Otherwise, no calling the kid, no texting the kid, no knocking on his door, no writing him - except by the coach who he signed with. At any time, for any reason, the recruit could tear up the NBLOI and re-open his recruiting, but only once - when he does that, no more signing til Signing Day.

This would free up coaches from having to recruit a kid who's already verbaled to him, which is what the coaches want. And it would free up the recruit from having to deal with pesky coaches who won't take no for an answer, which is what the recruit usually wants. And - the kicker - it would not lock a recruit in to a commitment he no longer wants, thanks to any number of factors outside his control. It wouldn't open up any new crazy-times, which surely a second binding LOI signing period would. Coaches don't need that when they're preparing for the biggest games of the year and recruits don't need that when finals are approaching.

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